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La Jolla Merchants strategize

Executive director Jodi Rudick enacted a new format when the La Jolla Village Merchants Association held its annual strategic planning meeting on Dec. 12 at the La Jolla Riford Library.

The format — inspired by the Main Street America Association — broke officers, board members and members of the public into five groups offering opinions on how to improve the La Jolla business improvement district in each of five key areas: 1) organizational excellence; 2) economic vitality and merchant development; 3) design and ambience; 4) promotion (events and experiences); and 5) promotion (marketing and publicity).

Each group wrote its best ideas on a board, then rotated around the library meeting room to the four other areas. Here, they prioritized the previous group’s ideas. Another rotation and each group assigned each of the previously prioritized ideas a feasibility grade from A to F. Each group eventually rotated back to its starting point and delivered a final presentation of the ideas.

A group prioritizes ideas in the Design and Ambience area.
A group prioritizes ideas in the Design and Ambience area. COREY LEVITAN

Strict time was kept by Rudick, who acted like part drill sergeant and part standup comic.

“Stay creative!” Rudik encouraged the groups. “Brainstorm as if there is not an attorney on the planet!”The suggestions emerging from this process included:

  • Discount cards for La Jolla locals with the merchants
  • LJVMA associate memberships
  • Applying for a community enhancement grant
  • Reprioritizing the Belvedere pedestrian shopping district at Girard Avenue and Prospect Street
  • A taxi and Uber/Lyft zone* A First Friday art, wine and food event
  • Bringing back Concerts in the Park

By far the issue raised the most, however, was parking. Most participants saw a need for a coordinated merchant validation program with the two parking companies operating in The Village, ACE and LAZ.

“I really think the local would take it nicely if we tried to make some true, concerted effort,” said Natalie Aguirre, store manager of J. McLaughlin. “There is the perception that there’s no parking in La Jolla when it’s not true. Just LAZ alone has 16 parking structures.”

Gary Wright, co-owner of Wright On Communications, said he thought La Jolla was hindered the most by not having a strong brand.

“What is the brand of La Jolla?” Wright asked during his presentation for Promotion (Marketing and Publicity). “The question is what should La Jolla be known for. And if you try to be everything to everybody, you’re going to be nothing to nobody. Our group concluded that we’re not going to get to the answer, but it needs an exercise to go through. The brand needs to be cleaned up. It needs to be defined and spit-polished. You start with target audiences. A slogan is not a brand. It’s just a slogan.”

The suggestions will be edited and tweaked by the executive board, then presented at LJVMA’s Jan. 9 meeting for a vote to adopt as the official 2019 strategic plan.

“The work that you did here was amazing,” Rudick told the group “and the ideas mind-boggling.”

Tourism meetings

Rudick and LJVMA president Brett Murphy reported meeting with the San Diego Tourism Authority earlier this month, as Murphy said, “just getting some feedback and asking a ton of questions.”

“We are going to be taking a look at what they’re doing in Gaslamp and Little Italy and figure out how to do something like that in La Jolla,” Murphy said, referring to the repurposing of some streets as pedestrian walkways with fountains. “What we came out of this with is that we need to create better experiences for people in La Jolla. Does this idea bring business into La Jolla? If we can really hone in on some action items that focus on that, we will be successful.”

Rudick added: “It’s about heads in beds and feet on the streets.”

LJVMA president Brett Murphy, executive director Jodi Rudick and board member Laurnie Durisoe pose with Bizx's Daniel Kosh at the LJVMA/Bizx holiday party at CAVU.
LJVMA president Brett Murphy, executive director Jodi Rudick and board member Laurnie Durisoe pose with Bizx chief growth officer Daniel Kosh at the LJVMA/Bizx holiday party at CAVU. COREY LEVITAN

Also at LJVMA...

  • Star-studded walk: The board voted unanimously to write a letter of recommendation supporting the establishment of a Hollywood Walk of Fame-like “walk of stars” somewhere in La Jolla. The idea was presented at the group’s Oct. 10 meeting by Robert Alexander, president of similar programs in both Las Vegas and Palm Springs. Rudick noted that the LJVMA would have “zero commitment in terms of resources and finances,” since those would all come through sponsorships arranged by Alexander’s company
  • Toast to the New Year: Group members adjourned to attend a joint Bizx/LJVMA holiday party at CAVU, the former Absolution by The Sea brewery.

— La Jolla Village Merchants Association next meets 3 p.m. Wed., Jan. 9 at the La Jolla Riford Library, 7555 Draper Ave.; lajollabythesea.com

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